Cubs Opening Day
Kosuke Fukudome's Cub debut was so riveting Monday afternoon, it was almost enough to distract from Kerry Wood's ninth-inning failure and the larger disappointment of losing the opener to the Brewers.
But terrific as it was, Fukudome's plate performance didn't quite match up to what one of his countrymen, Kaz Matsui, did when he first took the field for the Mets four years ago. On that evening, Matsui slugged the first pitch in his Major League career 429 feet, well over the center field fence in Atlanta's Turner Field, and set his new team off on a 7-2 season-opening victory. In addition to the homer, Matsui ripped a pair of doubles and walked twice, so he reached base five times in five PA's.
Given the way Matsui eventually stunk up New York, it could be argued that his Met career went straight downhill following that first game.
In any case, here's a review of the most prominent Japanese hitters to cross the Pacific and how they fared in their first regular season games on American soil:
For an Opening Day loss to a bitter in-division rival in which our ace had to leave the game prematurely, our leadoff man looked overmatched, and our new closer was tagged for three runs in an inning, that was a pretty satisfying game. All the credit goes to you, Kosuke. Thanks.
But former and perhaps future Cubs had a hand in games all across the land, and there were other Cub connections evident on this, the true Opening Day 2008.
Here is a Cub-flavored summary of today's already completed games:
D-Backs 4, Reds 2. Dusty loses his first game in the Cincy dugout. Corey Patterson goes
0-for-4, but doesn't strike out. Not once. In the whole game.
Nats 11, Phillies 6. Following their one-game home series against the Braves, the Nationals
traveled to Philadelphia to play the Phils. I can't find any way to
connect this game to the Cubs, except for the fact that scheduling a
Cubs-Brewers game in Chicago in late March when there's a perfectly
adequate domed stadium 90 miles north of Chicago is asinine...much like
scheduling the Nationals for a one-game home stand and then sending
them on the road.
"Why, I remember when my father and I used to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and watch the season start in Japan."
--The Onion ("On Baseball's Opening Day")
Has Opening Day lost any of its luster since Major League baseball trash-canned the quaint tradition of starting every season with a single game, played in Cincinnati, the home of the game's first professional team, where the occasion was celebrated with a parade down the city's streets? Is the day less magical now that it has unfolded in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Japan, and the weekday game in the Queen City has given way to a made-for-ESPN event played on Sunday night? Of course it has.
But the thing is, it's still a damn special day on the baseball calendar and in WAY too many of the past 99 Cubs seasons, it has been the one and only day of the season when Cub fans' optimism was in full bloom.